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Archive for July, 2011

The backyard was calling this morning, as it always does. A solitary stroll with hot coffee and open eyes, brushing past the flower beds, looking up at the trees (all bent slightly southward, in response to their bright heavenly master) – trying to just notice on a day of rest, not make life fit into all my pre-formed boxes.

I do that a lot, that striving to make things fit. It’s a deeply-ingrained habit, one that I want to break free from. The solitary thinking that has always fueled my soul needs, perhaps, to be less about creating taxonomies, and more about letting what is created speak with its own voice.

Glancing over at the zucchini patch, I marvel at how those vines and leaves (and the zucchinis, of course!) grow so rapidly. It reminds me to head over to the front of the house, where a row of sunflowers (liberated from the shade of a slowly-dying tree that was finally dispatched this spring) is now pushing past 8 feet tall, with bursts of yellow competing, and winning, against the barn-red backdrop of our shingled house.

Not that many weeks ago I pointed out the row of tiny, undistinguished little seedlings as an object lesson for my boys – they look like any other little plant right now, but those seeds guarantee that these will soon be imposing and lovely sunflowers. And so they have become.

Fast sunflowers. Fast zucchinis. From seed to fruit (or flower) in a blink of an eye. And, in another blink, gone. Delicate casualties of desperate growth for a brief, though productive, season of life. Not meant, like the oaks in the shaded backyard, to endure for generations. Yes, those more mighty trees have changed in the 10+ years since we moved into this place. But so gradually as to almost make the progress seem invisible.

I believed, for a long time, in rapid change. I would embrace the ideal, and make myself get there – fast. Like a racehorse with a jockey named Idealism and a whip named Willpower, I raced and raced to reach the destination. Without realizing that I was not on a racetrack at all. Worn and ragged from the endless self-imposed lashing, it began to dawn on me – oh, so slowly – that you cannot rush a process that is meant to be gradual and incremental.

Character is slow-growing. Wisdom is developed over long periods of time and reflection. Love is not the simply the burst of flame that comes from igniting a pile of leaves, but is both the fuel and the fruit of a long walk of heart-giving.

In a few weeks, the sunflowers will be gone. But the carefully-constructed house will endure, as it has for nearly 200 years. The deep-rooted oaks will continue to lean into the sun and grow, ever so gradually.

Maybe I need to stop hurrying God’s work. My guess is that He might appreciate my putting down the whip, opening my eyes, and getting out of the way…

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Heartbreak

Friends are hurting. Besides the usual aches and pains of living in a fallen world, several I know are going through the pain of divorce.

Ugly divorces.

None of these people are close enough, geographically, for a hug. To sit down with a cup of coffee and listen and shoulder a piece of the burden. They are experiencing heartbreak that is intensely searing, and lonely.

How can you go through something like this and not be daily haunted by a thousand self-recriminating doubts? “What if I…?” “What did I…?” “If only I…?”

And, the one big overhanging question: “Why?”

I wish I could give nice, simple, perplexity-removing answers. Yes, we can say that the root of it all is human sin, and that is true. But each relationship has its own complex fabric of trust and betrayal, hope and disappointment, love and selfishness, intimacy and fear.

Even if you can pinpoint the cause – the betrayal of adultery, or abandonment, or emotional/physical abuse – there are still a million regrets, wondering if it all could have been avoided – if only…

I’ve never undergone a divorce, but I know the self-recriminations. Depression, for decades, isolated and beat up my soul. Children that don’t turn out according to the expected script – that’ll lead to some cutting self-doubt and “if only…” regret. It’s lonely. It feels like nobody could ever understand. Sometimes you just want to curl up into a little ball and disappear.

And, truth be told, nobody can ever fully understand. But putting our arms around our friends (even if only virtually via video Skype), we can be there, even if we can’t “fix it”.

I wish I could fix it. But in the meantime, the front door is open, my friends.

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